We keep hearing from the Sports media that there are already gay men in pro football that just have not come out. But, now that Michael Sam has come out prior to the draft, teams may not be accepting of him and his “baggage”. This just does not make any sense to me. How would a teammate feel any different if he suspects or if he knows for certain? We hear that they will be uncomfortable in the shower, yet aren’t these “suspects” in the shower now? Perhaps, the mystery just makes it a bit more exciting?
People often throw around the similarities between the military and pro football. Players say they are going to battle and call themselves soldiers. Often, resulting in media backlash, because there really is a big difference between the game of football and the life of a soldier. I spent five years in the U.S Army. Before getting married, about three of those years were spent living in close proximity to lots of other male soldiers. In using the term “close proximity”, I mean living together in barracks and in tents; and in woods and on trucks and even in airplanes that you would shortly jump out of at very low altitude. I was lucky due to timing, but most that I served with spent time on the battlefields of Iraq in even closer and worse conditions.
Maybe it is just me, but this seems like a bit more of a drastic embedding than any pro football player will ever feel as part of his team. In every Army unit I was assigned, there were gay men and women. These were not medical units. These were Communication units and Airborne Communication units. These were units that spent 45 days in the woods training several times a year and could be deployed overseas at a moment’s notice. These were units filled with people of every walk of life, and I do not remember once in five years hearing about issues between the gay and straight soldiers. This was the “Don’t ask don’t tell” era. So, no one was actually coming out, but living in close quarters like this, there was not a lot of hiding it either. I am not stupid or blind, and I am certain there was and still is plenty of discrimination in the military. I can only speak from my experiences. When you realize your life may be put on the line, you care a lot less about what someone does in the privacy of their own room or home.
I truly hope that once the media is done beating this dead horse of a story that it just blows over and Michael Sam gets drafted, at the same slot he would have before coming out. And, his NFL teammates accept him as his college teammates did. Even better yet, maybe his partner will end up being in the military! And, this would be the last time we have to talk about this “baggage”. ‘Cause like some old blue eyed crooner once said regarding gays in the military “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere!” that is what he was talking about, right?
Good Luck, Sam!